Plastic is a menace disguised as convenience. It has permeated our world so thoroughly, existence without it seems impossible. And while letting go of plastic in its entirety is not easy, it is far easier, and imperative, to stop our use of single-use plastic. We need to remember that it takes us a minute to dispose of that plastic bag or bottle, but it stays in our environment for a lifetime, finding its way into the stomachs of birds, fish and cows.
Here are four of the biggest culprits of plastic pollution:
Mineral water bottles
Ban the bottle. It may be inconvenient (though not really) to lug a bottle of water around, but have we forgotten we carried it every single day for years and years, to school, and to all our after-school classes and activities? It was second nature to us then. When did this change?
Even when we grew up and had children of our own, we were careful to carry a bottle of water with us, for the children – especially when they were babies and toddlers. In fact, we happily carted around milk, water, diapers, change of clothes, wet wipes, sanitiser, baby lotion, burping towels and bottle warmer.. phew! The list was endless.
Surely making it a priority to carry our own water with us everywhere we go is not that inconceivable? We’ve done it earlier, and can do it again. Not only does a plastic mineral water bottle take centuries to break down, the process of manufacturing the bottle is highly polluting in itself. In addition, chemicals may leach from the bottle into the water, especially if the bottles have been exposed to heat or sunlight, which they often are during transportation. So the water in there is not as healthy as you think.
Refuse the straw. This is an easy one. Every time we order a drink, let us inform the server that we don’t require a straw. For those who often make a pit-stop for coconut water, it is worthwhile investing in a steel straw that you can fold into a little keychain and carry along with you.
Thankfully plastic bags have been banned, and if someone still hands you one, refuse it. As far as possible, stop accepting paper bags too. Carry your own cloth bags and put all your shopping in them.
Plastic or paper cups
Dispense with the disposable cup. Plastic or paper, they just generate more trash. And those paper cups have a wax lining, else the liquid would run through, so they’re definitely not healthy for you to be drinking from. If you carry your water bottle, you will never have to sip water out of a disposable cup again. However, there are other challenges. If your chaiwalla brings you tea in a disposable cup, insist he brings it in a glass instead. Similarly, lobby to have the little cups that sit next to the mineral water dispenser in your office removed. Once they are removed, staff will soon start bringing in their own water. If you have a coffee machine in your office, encourage staff to keep individual mugs in the office, which they can wash after use, instead of using disposable cups.
Other things we can do:
- Stop buying vegetables that have been packaged in plastic.
- Stop using face-wash or body-wash with micro-beads. If you want some scrubbing action, add salt to your soap, or use a face towel. Read more about micro-beads and the havoc they wreak here.
- Buy daals and groceries loose and avoid buying packaged foods.
- Opt for eco-friendly disposable plates that are easily biodegradable.
- Use menstrual cups. These are made of silicon, which is naturally resistant to bacteria, mold and fungi. They are better for you, and for the environment.
Let us do our bit to cut back on our use of plastics, and return to a simpler time, when we didn’t throw away so much so readily, when our cities and oceans were cleaner, when our air wasn’t filled with toxins, and our lakes were not on fire.
The earth is not our dumping ground, and we need to stop treating it as one.
Read more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.